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Evangelica III. 1992-2000. Collected Essays.
Leuven: Leuven University Press; Leuven-Paris-Sterling: Peeters 2001. XVIII, 666 S. gr.8 = Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, 150. Kart. ¬ 60,00. ISBN 90-5867-115-1 u. 90-429-0974-9.
Over a lifetime's study based at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, Frans Neirynck has built up a formidable reputation as one of the world's leading scholars on the study of the gospels, especially on matters relating to their interrelationships, their sources and their theologies. The fruits of these labours have been seen in a series of magisterial essays and articles over the years (as well as in a number of monographs), engaging in critical (and friendly!) debate with others working in the same areas of study. Two collections of these essays have already been published: Evangelica I (BETL 60; Leuven, 1982) included essays published in the period 1966-1981, Evangelica II (BETL 99; Leuven, 1991) the period 1982-1991. The present volume completes a magnificent trilogy with 32 articles and essays from the period 1992-2000.
The subject matter of the articles continue many of the interests which N. has pursued throughout his career, and indeed several of the essays here take the relevant debates on further from the point at which they were left in earlier essays written by N. himself (and included in the earlier volumes already mentioned). There are five magisterial essays stemming from papers given at the Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense, an annual conference which N. himself has done so much to promote over a period of some thirty years and which is now established as one of the leading international biblical conferences with its papers published in the prestigious BETL series. These include a survey of the whole issue of the relationship between John and the synoptics as discussed in the period 1975-1990 (in turn taking up an earlier article of N.s from 1975); there is a study of Literary Criticism: Old and New, showing the importance of both older and newer approaches to the study of the gospels; a very full essay discusses the problem of the sayings of Jesus in 1Corinthians, again developing further the insights from an earlier (1984) essay; there is also study of the possible links between Isa 61 and the material in Q 6,20-21; 7,22, and one on the significance of the account of the Nazareth sermon in Luke 4,16-30 within the broader context of Luke's two volume work as a whole.
The remaining essays stem from Festschrift essays as well as many published in the Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, where N. has been an indefatigable contributor of essays and reviews over the years. One group of essays deals with the specific problem of the minor agreements and the potential complications these can create for the Two Source theory. Particular attention is given to the pericope in Luke 10,25-28, with three essays addressing the problems posed by the minor agreements here, particularly in relation to the appeal made to this passage in the work of R. Gundry. Further essays here deal with the work of Goulder on the minor agreements, as well as further discussion of the famous agreements in the passion narrative (e.g. Mark 14,65 and parallels, on which N. has already written a very full article ). A group of four essays deals with the synoptic problem more generally, including one full engagement with the work of M.-E. Boismard, one more wide-ranging presentation of the arguments for the Two Source theory (a paper originally given at the Jerusalem conference of 1984), and a discussion of the phenomenon of order (taking up the work of D. Neville). A group of seven essays focus on the Sayings Source Q and issues associated with it. In particular there is a discussion, with full documentation, of how scholarly talk by some has drifted from referring to Q as a source to referring to it as a gospel. There is also a detailed discussion of the new Documenta Q series and its principles in the form of a review of the first volume to be published in the series. (As a result of the review, a number of changes to subsequent volumes in the series were made.) There is too a detailed critique of the recent attempt (by H. Fleddermann) to argue for the dependence of Mark on Q (originally published as an appendix in Fleddermann's own book). Finally there are seven essays dealing with the issue of the relationship between John and the synoptics, an issue where N. himself has been very much to the fore in re-opening the whole debate and arguing strongly that John may have known and used the synoptics. The problems of Luke 24,12, including the question of its textual authenticity within the gospel of Luke and its possible relationship to John 20, are further discussed in two full essays here, and there are also full surveys of the treatment of the issue in the work of others such as D. M. Smith, R. Brown, U. Wilckens, U. Schnelle etc. Finally a single essay provides a critical analysis of J. D. Crossan's inventory of material used in his study of the historical Jesus to build up a database of authentic material with which to construct his picture of Jesus. In particular, there is a full discussion, taking further the arguments of earlier (1985, 1989) essays, on the significance of apocryphal gospel materials in this debate and their relationships with the canonical gospels. In general N. argues strongly (against Crossan and others) that the non-canonical material is to be seen as secondary to, and dependent on, the canonical texts.
All the essays are characterised by a minute attention to detail and an impressive knowledge of all the relevant secondary literature on the particular topic being discussed. So too N. himself appears to have remained remarkably consistent in his views over the whole period of his writing. He has consistently maintained an economic position in relation to sources, and to other issues. He has been a tireless defender of the Two Source theory, arguing for the existence of Q as well as for Markan priority. But he has been generally sceptical about the existence of other possible sources, and his Q tends to be a relatively small Q (as compared with others). Hence, for example, Luke 10,25-28 is consistently explained as due to Lukan redaction, rather than as evidence (with the minor agreements with Matthew) of a Q version. Many of the minor agreements are explained as due to independent redaction (of Mark) by Matthew and Luke. So too in relation to the problem of John and the synoptics, appeal to alleged prior sources to explain the (undoubted) links that exist between all four gospels are generally shunned: the agreements (often between redactional elements in the gospels) show dependence, and the further disagreements are then explained in terms of further redaction by the secondary evangelist (in this case John).
N. also shows an extraordinary breadth of knowledge of other secondary literature. Nothing escapes his eagle eye and he documents fully some of the changes and developments in the ideas and writings of others. Indeed many of the essays in this volume have the form of detailed analyses and reviews of the published work of others, showing how an author may have changed and/or how their work relates to that of others in the same field. Readers will therefore find in these pages a wealth of bibliographical material for further study on the topics concerned, as well as a formidable set of arguments to engage with if they wish to take an alternative viewpoint!
The volume is produced to the very high standard which we have come to expect of the BETL series (and which N. himself has done much to establish, having acted as its general secretary for many years). The book will be a mine of information for all those studying the topics being discussed here. Perhaps in due course we may look forward to the completion of a quartet - but for now a trio is rich fare indeed!